The global construction industry is developing and adapting to new technologies.

For a number of years building information modelling (BIM) has been hailed as the next step forward in building design and construction. However, a number of construction companies have taken BIM adoption a step further; with Danish contractors being but one prime example. They are now actively pursuing virtual design and construction (VDC). BIM modelling has traditionally focused upon digitalisation in order to better understand the full lifecycle of an asset; VDC builds upon this model by using a range of tactics designed to ensure the future viability of an asset.

This ability, which is at the core of VDC, is commonly referred to as 4D, 5D, and 6D modeling. Apart from a 3D BIM model, which has already noticeably reduced the amount of clashes on large projects, it also takes into account the time (4D), the cost (5D) and even component lifecycles from a facilities management perspective (6D).

The 4D model is created by combining the BIM model with a location-based time schedule. This locates the model elements on a timeline, allowing the user to visualize the construction activities over time. At a public school currently under construction in Copenhagen, the building process was optimized using 4D to ensure a seamless construction process despite complex geometries and working interfaces.

5D model is created using a Bill of Quantities and allows for the simulation of costs over time during construction. During construction of apartment buildings north of Copenhagen, a company using the 5D model produced an exact comparison between spending and the digital model.

Finally, a 6D model contains added information relevant to the building’s operation and facility management activities. This enables project stakeholders to identify how individual components – such as heating and other utilities elements – will support the operational project infrastructure as a whole, over the entirety of its lifecycle. For instance, the data included in a 6D model may include details relating to the manufacturer of individual building components, installation dates and instructions for achieving the optimal performance of those component parts. In this way, future operational issues can be identified and resolved at a project’s construction phase.

Historically, the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry has suffered from a fragmented value chain. This has arisen as a result of competing stakeholder interests which often tend towards a struggle for profits and widespread inefficiencies in the construction phases. Contractors have been particularly affected by failures in the current system as late involvement, inadequate materials and design requirements will often lead to high levels of risk, delays and costly budget overruns.

However, VDC has been held by some to offer the opportunity to overcome these persistent industry issues. As one industry member has noted,

“When you work with VDC as a mind-set, engineers, architects, advisors and clients can all work together as a team from the beginning and focus on the project as a whole. It helps tear down barriers between the different disciplines and connects both ends of the supply chain, which benefits.”